It is no surprise to those who work with women fleeing abuse that many of their partners and former partners are using the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health protocols put in place to contain the spread of the virus as an excuse to engage in a wide range of abusive, bullying, harassing and manipulative behaviours.
We have heard reports from our clients and from frontline workers across the province about:
- Attempts to manipulate an existing parenting order or informal status quo about the children
- Threatening to not return or not returning children from access time
- Insisting on access even where the court order is for supervised access or exchanges, and those centres are now closed
- Going back and forth on what arrangement he will accept, especially when the separation is recent and no order is in place
- Making false allegations about the mother’s inability to protect the children from the virus
- Refusing to use a public place to exchange the children, even when this is the existing arrangement or order
- Claiming that the children cannot be with the mother if she is living in a shelter
Women who already live in fear of their partner are even more vulnerable than usual right now. In addition to their concerns about their partner, they are worried about the virus, managing their children with no school or day care, possibly trying to work from home or working in a frontline job that exposes them to risk, worried about money, and so on.
Women are coping with all of this within the context of courts dealing only with urgent matters, and doing that largely electronically.
It is a lot for women and those of you who support them to contend with.
Luke’s Place has been collecting information, consulting with the courts, lawyers, frontline workers and women, reviewing and analysing cases and developing resources since mid-March.
We have pulled those resources, updated where necessary, together, along with new information (in particular, case decisions) to assist frontline workers who support women living in or leaving abusive relationship with family law issues that arise during COVID-19.